The Scandinavian element beyond the Danelaw
Magdalena Bator (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan)
Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, 43, (2007)
The Scandinavian element is present in English mainly due to the Viking invasions and later settlement of the Vikings in the British Isles. Hence, it has been usually assumed that the Scandi- navian loanwords entered the English language in the areas where the number of Scandinavian settlers was the highest, i.e. the Danelaw, inhabited by the Danes and the northern counties (Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire) settled by the Norwegians. The present paper will present evidence that the Scandinavian loanwords not only were also common in the non-Scandinavian parts of England but in some cases occurred exclusively in the west and south of the country. Additionally, the evidence collected for the present study will be compared to the area of “the Great Scandinavian Belt” proposed by Samuels (1985), in order to check whether the distribution of the investigated items agrees with Samuels’ focal area.
Most scholars who have dealt with Scandinavian loanwords in England, concentrated on those areas where the concentration of the Scandinavian settlement was the highest, i.e. the Danelaw, inhabited mostly by the Danes, and the northern counties of England occupied by the Norwegians (Westmoreland and parts of Lancashire). The rest of the country was by and large neglected, since it was assumed that even if some loanwords were present beyond the Scandina- vian areas, they were scarce and were originally borrowed in Viking England and only later transferred to the other areas. Bjrkman (1900-02) implies that words included in West Midland texts are unlikely to be of Norse origin, since that area was beyond the Scandinavian influence. We will try to show that these views are not necessarily correct.